An article in The Florida Current reports that the Florida legislature has come to an agreement to give career service state employees a raise — the first in almost seven years. Career service workers earning more than $40K a year would see a $1K increase, and those earning less than that would get a $1.4K increase.
It’s not much, for sure, but it is a step in the right direction.
A definite step in the wrong direction was the State Supreme Court blessing the money grab labeled as “pension reform” earlier this year. In 2011, career service employees, then five years from any general raise in salary, were mandated to contribute 3% of their salary to the pension plan. Gov. Rick Scott cited common practice in private industry and other states of requiring employee salary contributions to retirement plans in pushing for this change, but nowhere was it said that it was common practice anywhere to reduce employee total compensation unilaterally. Instead of increasing funding to the pension plan, the state simply reduced its total contribution to the pension plan, effectively reducing employee total compensation.
The two countervailing results can be tallied up together to yield an effective compensation change value now.
|Salary||Reduction in total compensation||Raise||Effective compensation change|
If you are a career service state employee making less than $40K per year, the legislature’s proposed raise will provide more positive change in compensation than the “pension contribution” reduced it. If, though, you are making more than $40K per year, the amount of the the salary raise is less than the total compensation amount removed by the “pension contribution”; you are still effectively in the hole or underwater or whatever term might apply to this form of being shafted by your employer.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 14302 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 1108 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The Mayan apocalypse failed to appear, so I had a nice New Year’s day here in Florida. The temperature got into the 70s here, and not too breezy, so Diane and I worked on various things that all too recently would have been too hot to do comfortably. But here in the evening, I’m reflecting a bit over what has gone by, and thinking about things to be accomplished in the coming year.
One of the major items in the works is finishing off a document for a plan of action in handling TalkOrigins Archive web sites. The success of the Panda’s Thumb has for some time made it the main point of interest, but there has been discussion about a major overhaul of the TalkOrigins web site itself. I’m putting this together via a Google Docs document. The document discusses a collection of web applications for future TalkOrigins Archive holdings. The Panda’s Thumb weblog serves as a front-lines resource with its usual interactivity. The current static HTML TalkOrigins Archive should be preserved so as not to break web resources with links to those materials. But those materials and more will be made available in a content management system. Developing new materials for the CMS will be part of the job for a Wiki. There is also the idea that a full-blown forum package could handle free-form discussions for those without good access to Usenet newsgroups. The critical component in all this, though, is setting up an effective volunteer organization. And that’s the part of the document that I am working on putting together now. When complete, we’ll be having a full call for volunteers. (If you would like to become a volunteer for the TalkOrigins Archive now, please leave a comment indicating your interest and skill set.)
I’m still looking to move ahead with various academic publications that have been in process for quite some time. One thing I was doing today was looking through files, which reminds me of just how much of a backlog there is. I did run across my script for my 2002 presentation at the World Skeptic’s Conference, which reminds me of another activity that I’ve deferred: putting my various presentations in video format and putting them online.
And the science education situation in Florida looks like it may get even more interesting in the future. Our new state education commissioner, Tony Bennett, was touted as a featured speaker for a “Creation Evidence Expo” in 2009, then cancelled when it made the news.
There’s the whole issue of data center consolidation for Florida’s state agencies, a process that is supposed to be complete within the next six years or so. The legislative mandate to do this came down some time ago, but it seems to me that the legislature was not properly informed of the downside of data center consolidation: you may save money on personnel, but a frighteningly large proportion of such projects fail outright. Failure of data systems for state agencies is a pretty bad potential downside to have. There are other issues with the implementation of the data centers. The state is aiming to put everything into two data centers, both of them physically located in the state capitol, Tallahassee. That makes it convenient for the state administration, certainly, but anyone who has looked at data bandwidth in high-speed Internet systems would notice that Tallahassee is not in the path of main trunk lines. Data flow, and low latency, is a critical part of client/server and n-tier architectures, and putting the central data repositories at the end of a thin pipe seems an odd choice. Part of the benefit of having multiple data centers is backup and failover capability; these, though, are rather less effective the closer the places are physically. Power outages are more likely to take down both centers when they are in the same geographic locale, and disasters are more likely to effect both, too. Having a data center in Tallahassee makes sense, but having the premier data center elsewhere (somewhere with much better bandwidth access, for one) would make much more sense. There’s lots more to talk about on this topic, and I hope to do some of that later.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 73147 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 5497 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
We’ve heard tales of officialdom greasing the way for people to profit over the consideration of species and ecosystems. Now we’ve got a home-grown Florida tale along those lines.
Craig Pittman wrote an article appearing in the Tampa Bay Times that goes into the details. Department of Environmental Protection employee Connie Bersok has been suspended from her position by her supervisor, Jeff Littlejohn, for failing to approve an application giving a lot of wetlands restoration “credits” to developer Marc El Hassan’s mitigation bank. According to the article, Littlejohn’s basis for doing so is material given to him by the mitigation bank’s lawyer and its consultant. If your blood pressure is trending a bit low, please go read the article and you’ll likely find it heading right back up again.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 10293 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 2838 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
Here’s another way the acronym “ID” could be instantiated: idiots driving. I commute to work, and yesterday morning I was on I-275 northbound coming into St. Petersburg. I was in the right-hand lane, and a Honda Odyssey was in the left-hand lane. We were traveling at just about the same speed, and had been for a while. There was no traffic ahead of us for another quarter-mile or so.
The Honda was maybe five feet further ahead than we were as we approached 54th Ave. South. Suddenly, the Honda starting coming over to the right. As it crossed the line marking the lanes, I honked, expecting the driver to correct course and return fully to their lane. It kept coming right. I kept the horn going, but veered right and braked, too, to avoid a collision. It’s just as well, because the Honda driver apparently didn’t change their plan at all and simply completed their lane change. If I hadn’t been paying attention, we’d have had a two-vehicle mashup at 65 MPH on the interstate.
Diane was able to get a couple of photos just afterward. Here’s the back-end and license plate of the vehicle I saved from a high-speed crash:
And here’s one of the driver and passenger we prevented from coming to serious harm and injury:
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Dr. Eugenie Scott is giving a public talk Thursday, February 9, 2012, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. The topic is on the “critical analysis” legislative efforts that have popped up in Florida, and how these are part and parcel of the creationism movement.
The location is FAH 101 and the time for the talk is 7 PM. There’s a reception at 6:30 PM, so getting there early would be a good thing. I plan to be there.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 14530 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 1895 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>
The “Florida Senate Majority Office” has a page on Facebook. They ran a poll asking, “Do you think government employees should contribute to their retirement funds, similar to the private sector?”, which is how I became aware of them. The way that’s worded, I’m sure they were expecting a runaway “Yes” response, but the “No”s are currently ahead. It’s possible people are becoming aware that that is just code for “cut total compensation to public employees”, not pension reform. The state started paying all retirement in the mid-70s because it is cheaper that way: the state doesn’t have to hand over an employee contribution that doesn’t exist if the employee doesn’t stay until “vesting” in the program. That’s right, the current system of complete state pay-in for retirement is not meant as a special benefit for public employees, but rather as a way to be cheap with a whole swath of them. Employee pay-in will make the vesting waiting period less effective as a means of saving the state money. The savings currently considered actually are in the across-the-board reduction in total compensation. The whole thing could be done better, from a “save the money” point of view, by simply reducing all public employee salaries by a certain percentage. That would automatically reduce the state pay-in for retirement, too. But I think that the political calculation is that “pension reform” is an easier label to sell than an absolutely obvious pay cut, even if they amount to the same thing, reducing total compensation.
Anyway, the Facebook page looks to be a good way to keep up with what the Florida GOP is doing. Among other items, Senator Altman is sponsoring a Senate Joint Resolution aimed at removing strong language from the state constitution that forbids direct or indirect funding of religious entities with state funds. It is SJR 1218, and it removes the previous prohibition on funding religious entities while asserting positively that an individual may use state funds by giving them to religious entities. The opportunities for slapstick appear to be about to increase.
In the “that’s scary” column would be the news about SCR 4, a resolution for Florida to advance a balanced budget amendment to the US constitution. What’s scary about that? The way they propose doing it, that’s what. They want to hold a national constitutional convention in order to add a balanced budget amendment. A constitutional convention could certainly add such an amendment, but it need not stop with that. The convention could rewrite any or all of the constitution at their discretion, and looking at what’s been going down in our state and national legislatures doesn’t look like any sort of discretion to me. A balanced budget provision is at least popular and arguable, but some of the other stuff our legislators have been spending their time on is not. Which makes me think that calling a constitutional convention isn’t actually for the purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment (they could just propose and advocate that in the normal, single-issue amendment process), but for doing whatever else it is that isn’t put on the table for us to see beforehand. Very scary indeed.<= get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>> = get_option(\'vc_text_before\') ?> 30589 = get_option(\'vc_human_count_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_preposition\') ?> 4422 = get_option(\'vc_human_viewers_text_many\') ?> = get_option(\'vc_tag\') ?>>